Integrated Pest Management (IPM) starts with the least toxic biological and cultural methods to manage pests, with the least possible damage to people, property, and the environment.
IPM involves identifying a pest and understanding its life cycle and habits. By using IPM practices, you’ll benefit by growing healthier plants that don’t leave a trail of toxic chemicals. In addition, you’ll find more beneficial insects and pollinators on your property.
Some natural products are indiscriminate, meaning they kill everything. Kind of like agricultural chemotherapy. It’s important to understand IPM takes into consideration that a certain amount of pest damage is acceptable, and it is up to the individual to make this determination. As a result, a more extreme approach to treatment may not take place until this threshold of tolerance has been crossed. In many ways, conventional IPM appears similar to organic practices. The big difference is that in conventional IPM, synthetic pesticides are an acceptable method of treatment in severe cases and as a last resort. NEEM does not recommend this “conventional approach” to IPM that allows that course; it is not necessary.
IPM methods work by monitoring for pests and identifying them accurately, so that appropriate control decisions can be made. This monitoring and identification ensures that pesticides will be used only when they are needed and that the right kind of pesticide will be applied.
The first step is to properly identify the pest, not all insects and other living organisms require control. Many insects are innocuous and beneficial to farms and gardens or beneficials. Your county extension service is a great resource. Next, understand individual life cycles and behavioral patterns so you can use the most appropriate treatment at the proper stage of development. Third, monitor the activity. Is the problem isolated to a small area, or is it taking over your property? The fourth step is to determine how much damage you are willing to accept before control measures are finally applied.
Prevention is the key to successful IPM practices. Planting the right plant in the right place, practicing crop rotation and keeping your garden free of debris are all ways to ward off insect infestations.
If simple mechanical action does not work, then you’ll have to consider “soft” controls such as repellants, soaps and oils that have little or no impact on the environment and beneficial insects when only applied to the pest insect. Organic neem oil spray is a popular way to protect garden plants from chewing insects and fungal diseases. Use it to control insects and mites such as whitefly, aphids and scale. It also controls fungal diseases like black spot, rust, mildew and scab. Neem degrades quickly with UV light, so it has less of an effect on beneficial organisms compared to more traditional pesticides.
NOTE: Be aware of abuse of neem as an ingredient in chemical pesticides so they can claim to be “green”. Use only 100% cold water expeller pressed neem oil.
Under the conventional IPM approach, as a last resort, conventional pesticides may be used to adequately control pests. NEEM as an organization does not endorse the conventional IPM approach. No matter what approach you take, never apply pesticides at the time when pollinators and beneficials are most active.
Results will improve over time as you learn effective control techniques. The outcome will be a healthier farm and garden with less time and money spent dealing with pests.
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